Day 11-16: March 14-19, 2018. Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga.
Left Hardiware and drove 1 hr to Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga. The holy river Ganges runs through it and there are two main bridges, Ram Jhula and Laksham Jhula.
More of the yoga ashrams were located around Laksham Jhula and there were several yoga teacher trainings offered and it seemed like 80 percent of the people that were there were there for yoga teacher training or had already done one. There are many nice westerners and juice and vegan options available to cater to them. The town is calmer than the previous one with less street noise (except for after aarti’s where there were several cars and tuk tuk’s). Several calm cows are in the streets and the people feed and give them water. There are also many grey monkeys which are nicer and brown monkeys that are more aggressive and grab peoples food from their hands. There are homeless holy men as well and some people that are disabled around the city.
Arrived at Parmarth Niketan Ashram at the foot of the Himalyan mountains. It is one of the largest Ashram’s there and home of the International Yoga festival.
The ashram rooms were modest and grounds peaceful with various Hindu god statues. There was a 3 week Vedic chanting course being taught during our stay.
Yoga is offered around sunrise and sunset with a nightly sunset Yagna/ Havan and Ganga Aarti.
The Yagna is a common purifying rituals in India where offerings and ghee is thrown in flames and people pray to God to symbolically offer impurities to God. At the end, Mantras by the priests are chanted saying “idam namama, idam namama” which means “Not for me, but for You.”Reminding us that everything done should be for God, others, and the world.
The Ganga Aarti was done at the river with lots of singing afterwards with lamps lit with fire being passed around and moved in circles. The Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, PhD and president of the ashram H.H. Pujya Swami Chinamand Saraswatiji Maharaj were present.
It was a special day as it was Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, PhD’s birthday. She was given a small banyan tree as a present and there were several people taking pictures and video. She came here from Los Angeles when she was 25 years old and has been here for 22 years.
After, we had a question and answer session (Satsaya) with the teacher in English.
They surprised her later on by singing happy birthday and songs of thanks for her teachings while pouring water of a model of the earth.
Back to the room at 9p as the doors of the Ashram closed at 10p unless there is an emergency.
Day 12: Thursday, March 14, 2018. Rishikesh.
Took a 6:30am yoga class from Nandini Tripath who was born and raised in Los Angeles, received a Bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley in Molecular Cell Biology and Psychology. She went to explore her Indian roots and found this ashram in 2010. She has stayed ever since and states her lupus as been cured without any medicines.
She took us through various stretches, exercises from the head to the feet, and breathing exercises which she said her 105 year old guru taught her.
She also sang beautiful songs and we chanted with her periodically through the practice.
We practiced Surya Namaskar a and sang the Surya Namaskar mantra. Surya Namaskar is appreciation in motion of the sun as the sun sustains the earth and we exist because of the sun. It involves twelve yoga postures signifying the Sun’s cycles which run at approximately twelve and a quarter years. If our system is invigorated, then the cycle will be in harmony with the solar cycle.
We practiced the movement with breath. as she spoke in Sanskrit, breathe, breathe out is and hold your breath.
We also had a talk from a homeopathic medicine doctor who urged having nuts, coconut oil, flax seed, warm water with lemon and ginger ( for digestion) and to drink water before meals but not after. He encouraged no sleeping until at least 3hrs after eating, eating alkaline foods and not mixing milk with tea.
Practiced some yoga on our own on lawn and spoke to a young indian boy who was taking classes in the nearby ashram ( but they were remodeling) as well as ours.
Took a nap until 12p and had an Ayurvedic consultation with doctor J. P. Rathi who said I was vatta pitta with Vatta imbalance.
Recommended bathing in warm water in the morning preferably, turn left in bed for a few minutes to help with regularity, then sitting and drinking warm water (not standing).
He also recommended having a bigger lunch and smaller dinner, eating certain fruits, nuts, and vegetables and taking tulsi to help with digestion. Less salt intake, less pickled food. And do salt water gargles if getting congested. An ayuervedic massage was recommended with oils.
Fruits: Rasin, pomogranate, apple, grapes, pear, papaya, orange, banana ( but not if having phlegm).
Vegetables: (seasonal) Pumpkin, cabbage, brocoli.
Nuts: Walnuts, almond, cashews.
Winter: Have sesame oil, olive oil
Summer: Consume olive, sunflower, and coconut oil and put on body.
Don’t eat whole lentils as it is difficult to break down
Tulsi in the morning for digestion. Can mix tulsi and ginger with black or gteen tea.
Amala (Indian Gooseberry) which has alot of antioxidents after dinner.
And Brahmi at 4p for concentration.
Had 4pm yoga from a male yoga instructor which started with pranayama, then individual stretching oh joints, sun salutation mantra with sun salutation a ( diff version from what I learned in the US), then individual asanas.
Attended the Ganga Aarti where someone that previously sang at the Aarti then went back to Jeruselum and came back to visit and sang at the ceremony.
Met this group that was studying classical indian music in Varanasi but the teacher had to take care of business in Rishikesh so he took the group there. We hung out with them at a nice cafe with fresh juices that had a balcony overlooking the Ganga river.
Day 13: Friday, March 16, 2018. Rishikesh, India
Attended 6:30a-7:30a yoga with Nidini.
Walked around town and purchased gold color bangles and a ring for less than a $2 usd, a silver OM pendant, and a small singing bowl (350 INR~ $8 US).
Ate lunch at the office and had a fruit bowl with curds, pomegranate seeds, and granola. Also had a cheese and spinach crepe and carrot and spinach juice.
At 2p we had a 100 minute Ayurvedic body massage and oil drip on forehead. This Full Treatment pack cost about $40USD and was called a abhayanga + shirodhara +steam. The whole body massage was with Himalayan herbs which relaxes, heals and rejuvenates the body. Herbal oil drops her dripped on the head continuously on the third eye for insomnia, better focus, relaxes the mind and connects the body, mind and soul and I was put to sleep on and off. Then there was a personal bath used to purify the body with herbal sweating- I could only tolerate this so long as the steam was getting too hot on my legs and I did not want to get scalded.
Had a delicious samosa for 10 rupees ($0.15) at the ashram.
Day 14th: Saturday, March 17th, 2018.
Visited the Beatles Ashram where the Beatles, Mia Farrow, and others stayed and learned trancedental meditation with Marikeshi Mahesh which spread and has become popular worldwide. The beatles were have been able to stop using LSD and had their most production time producing the White Album. It is no longer a functioning Ashram and are ruins now controlled by government who requires and entry fee prior to entering.
Afterwards, we took a tuk tuk to the Triveni Ghat where 3 holy rivers meet: The Ganges, Yamuna and the Saraswathy (goddess or the Arts and literature.
Triveni Ghat is a most revered sacred bathing spot in Rishikesh and is situated on the banks of Ganges River.
Attended the Maha Aarti at the Triveni Ghat which was a beautiful ceremony with firelit lamps.
Devotees make many offerings at Triveni ghat, in the early morning at sunrise they offer milk and dias/diyas ( flowers with a lit candle) to the river in the Triveni Ghat.
Had dinner at the ashram and a rasgulla for dessert. Basically a white ball soaked in sugar water- not very good.
Attended the music festival held at our ashram where they played the tabla (musical drums), harmonium, and the surbahar.
Day 15: Sunday, March 15th, 2018, India New Years.
Yoga was not offered at our ashram on Sundays so we ventured out to try other courses in town.
Attended Samadhi Yoga/ World Peace to try to catch their beginner yoga class which was replaced by an Indian New Years celebration which was conducted by the spiritual leaders and kundalini yoga teacher students.We had no idea it was new years but it was a treat to attend.
New years is a celebration of the birth of the world and when Ram was reincarnated from Vishnu. The ceremony consisted of singing, flower offerings, blessings symbolized by placing a red dot at the third eye and tying and red and yellow string on the wrist. Hindu’s do a day fast or modified fast. During the ceremony we were supposed to silently repeat a promise we would make during the 9 days such as fast, meditate, etc. I promised to meditate for 9 days for at least 10 minutes. We planted barely seeds and our dedication to our promise would show in how much it sprouted. People would typically wear the sprouts on them after they grew.
We spoke to some of the yoga teacher students studying there ( from Austria and Idaho) and they spoke of a purification process they just did in they drank a lot of room temperature until they threw up to cleans the body. One girl felt a lot better afterwards and decided to fast for a few days which was optional.
The head of the Yoga school invited us back and added us on facebook ( felt very old age versus modern age).
Afterwards, we attended a donation based acroyoga workshop and did some fun moves! It was all non- indians that attended but it was a nice vibe.
Stopped off to get a fresh green juice (beet and carrot) from Nirvana cafe.
In the evening we were invited to a lovely classical india indian concert to celebrate the new year performed by our new friend and well known indian violinist, Sukhdev Prasad Mishra.
Day 16: Monday, March 19th, 1018. Rishikesh to Delhli- overnight train to Varanasi.
Took a yoga class at the Parmarth Niketan taught by one of the singers at the Aarti who is a yoga instructor and teaches Vedic chanting. We were a little late because they changed the schedule.
She did a few sun saltations, singing, savasana, and the seated. Didnt seem to have that much closure as with the western classes.
Hatha yoga in india- start with singing, pranayama, individual joints warm up, sun salutation mantra and a few flows, individual asanas. May or may not have a brief savasana.
In Delhi, we visited the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, a large Shik temple laid out in white marble and ornate with gold. Everyone is required to wash their hands and feet and cover their head when entering. Additional small scarves are available to those who do not have their own head covering. There is a large building where it seemed there were two tombs people prayed to. When they entered and left people touched in steps. And free meals in the langer hall that feed thousands a day. You can volunteer to help cook.
Caught the 12 hr train ride from Delhi to Varanasi where we had a sleeper bunk. Fortunately I was able to sleep okay as they provided sheets and blankets and a small pillow. It was annoying to come down from the top bunk and be wary of watching your belongings.